Nearly three million start Haj pilgrimage in Mecca
MECCA (REUTERS) - Nearly three million Muslim pilgrims started the first phase of the annual haj on Wednesday, travelling through packed streets from Mecca's Grand Mosque to the enormous camp at Mina just outside the Saudi Arabian city.
In a dense sea of humanity, all clad in the same simple white robes, the pilgrims who were unable to get onto a new rail link were packed into 18,000 buses provided by the city or perched on the roofs of trucks. Others walked the five km to Mina in late afternoon temperatures of 35 deg C.
"I want to ask God for paradise... I don't want anything from the world. I want to win paradise and be among good men,"said Mr Abdul Raki Al-Yamani, a Yemeni who lives in Mecca, waiting to mount a bus.
Islam's pilgrimage is one of the faith's so-called five pillars and is a duty for all Muslims once in their lives if they are capable of it.